Thousands Sat In Their Cars For 7 Hours Tuesday As Police Played Blame Game

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) — Motorists are beginning to wonder how safe they will be if a hurricane strikes Long Island’s East End.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs On The Story

They have this fear because for nearly seven staggering hours during Tuesday’s storm, the only roads out were clogged and closed.

CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan was one of the thousands that were trapped in the traffic nightmare as a portion of County Road 39 and Sunrise Highway were shut down, creating sheer agony, bedlam and confusion throughout Southampton.

“I think someone needs to make a plan so we can get out. I feel trapped,” one woman said.

“I have children that are hungry, thirsty; 95 degrees in the car, and we have no gas and nowhere to go,” motorist Ana Amato said.

As the hours passed, Village police referred McLogan to the state police, who told her it was town police that closed the highway to clean oil and clear debris from a two-vehicle collision. Motorists complained the authorities were passing the buck, keeping them uninformed.

“We’re in a lot of trouble,” one person said.

“If there’s an evacuation we should just camp out?” another said.

“This is Montauk Highway, right? And 27’s not moving either,” added another.

The backup surged through the Hamptons for 20 miles along the emergency coastal evacuation route.

“This is a good example of what we are really facing on the east end if there were to be any kind of evacuation necessary. The intersections are getting blocked. I’m afraid cars will be overheating soon. There’s nowhere to go,” motorist Maria Wilson said.

Finally at 9:49 p.m., nearly seven hours after the roads were closed, traffic began to ease. McLogan showed her exclusive video to some East End town and county leaders, who called the dangerous conditions unacceptable.

However, Suffolk County’s Office of Emergency Management predicted that kind of chaos would not happen in a real hurricane evacuation.

“In the event of a major emergency on the East End of the Island, a coordinated effort would take place bringing all the response agencies together operating on one specific plan,” said Edward Schneyer, the director of Suffolk County Emergency Preparedness.

“We actually do after-action critiques on any kind of significant incident to make sure we do learn from that and modify procedures,” added Suffolk Police Support Services Chief Mark White.

“I think [the video] really highlights to all of us the fact that we live on an island. Be prepared make sure you have a go bag with you in your car,” said Same Kille of the American Red Cross.

Kille said to keep snacks, water and a working phone in the car at all times. In addition, try to have a full tank of gas.

Southampton Town Police said they needed to land a helicopter and clean three lanes of traffic from a garbage truck involved in the non-fatal collision.

They are reviewing policy.

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